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Michael forecast to hit Florida as Category 3 hurricane; evacuations ordered

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Posted at 7:03 AM, Oct 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-09 08:28:28-04

(RNN) - As residents of coastal Florida evacuate, Hurricane Michael is expected to grow more severe before hitting the area as soon as Wednesday.

In its 8 a.m. ET report Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported the Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph was 395 miles south of Panama City, FL.

Producing heavy rainfall and strong winds, Michael is moving north-northwestward at 12 mph.

A storm surge warning is in effect from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to the Anclote River in Florida. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, and a hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

A tropical storm watch is in effect along the southeastern coast of the U.S. from Fernandina Beach, FL, to South Santee River, SC, the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River.

Michael underwent a period of “rapid intensification” on Sunday and Monday, its winds strengthening by more than 35 mph on its journey from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane.

The storm is expected to undergo rapid intensification again Tuesday. It is forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall somewhere along the Florida Panhandle the next day.

More than 300 miles of coastline from Mobile, AL, through the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area are threatened, according to the NHC.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in coastal and low-lying areas along the Panhandle, including at least four counties and parts of Panama City.

A life-threatening storm surge has been predicted along Florida’s Gulf Coast, along with dangerous winds and heavy rainfall.

Other locations in the state are under voluntary evacuation. Those in mobile homes or other weak structures were particularly urged to leave.

Tolls were suspended in order to help people evacuate.

By Monday morning, generators were sold out in many area stores, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. Residents also stocked up on food, water and gas.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott expanded a state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include 35 counties in preparation for the storm.

The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas in addition to southern portions of Alabama and Georgia are expected to receive as much as 12 inches of rain through Friday.

Eastern Georgia, the Carolinas and southern Virginia are expected to receive as much as 6 inches. The rains could bring life-threatening flash flooding.

The Florida Peninsula, eastern mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast could see as much as 3 inches of rain.

The last major hurricane to hit northwest Florida was in 2005, when Hurricane Dennis made landfall at Santa Rosa Island, FL, as a Category 3 storm, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency for Alabama Tuesday because of expected wide-spread power outages and wind damage.

A storm surge warning is in effect from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to the Anclote River in Florida. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, and a hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida as well as parts of Cuba.

A tropical storm watch is in effect along the southeastern coast of the U.S. from Fernandina Beach, FL, to South Santee River, SC, the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River.

After making landfall, Michael is expected to cut a path across the Southeast, including North and South Carolina, states that are still recovering from Hurricane Florence in September. The storm may also hit parts of Alabama and Georgia before heading northward to Virginia and Maryland.

However, Michael is expected to weaken after landfall and as it moves through the Southeast.

The storm brought heavy rains to western Cuba as it moved through the area Monday. Total rainfall is expected to reach between 4 and 8 inches, which could trigger flash floods and mudslides.

At least 13 people in Central America died as a result of the storm’s rain and flooding over the weekend, Al Jazeera reports.

Forecasters expect Michael to re-emerge over water by the end of the week, becoming extra-tropical by the weekend.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season and the seventh hurricane. It formed near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday.

Florence, the sixth named storm and first major hurricane, made landfall as a Category 1 storm the morning of Sept. 14 at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

It left at least 51 people dead across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Reuters. The amount of damage, particularly from flooding associated with the storm, is expected to reach 11 figures.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie re-strengthened Monday as it traversed the middle of the Atlantic.

The storm is expected to continue strengthening and may become a hurricane again on Wednesday.

As of 5 a.m. ET Tuesday, Leslie was about 1,035 miles west-southwest of the Azores. It’s moving to the south-southeast at 13 mph, with this general motion expected to continue for the next couple days before a turn to the east-northeast.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect for Leslie.

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